A few months ago I stopped posting updates on my Facebook page. Recently I’ve found that I have stopped reading other people’s updates as well. It used to be that I kept up on a daily basis. Now I might check in once every week or two. This trend was not a result of any intentional decision that I made. It just happened. So I asked myself why?
When I started using Facebook, by network was fairly small and limited to a few friends and family. My network is not large by most accounts. But it is diverse and large enough that I feel the need to filter everything I say. I worry that I will offend someone or be misunderstood. And to be completely honest, I worry that I will say something that will not be of interest, even to my Mom.
It seems to me that a social network is useful when there is something shared between members of the network. Maybe it is a topic of interest or some other point of mutuality. My Facebook network no longer has that. Even ‘I’ am not a point of commonality for everyone in my network. There are some people who I added as a ‘Friend’ who are not really friends in any way. They may have been a friend of a friend or a casual acquaintance. So even ‘I’ am not a subject of interest to some of the people in the network. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating; just analytical.
My company has adopted Salesforce Chatter as a corporate social networking platform. I’m not sure that calling it a social network is correct. But it starts to look a lot like that–but for work-related discussions. And since discussions are about the company’s business there will always be at least one point in common for members of the network. And that point of commonality makes the network useful if not interesting. When I consider Linked-in, this also holds true. Linked-in is a network for professional job-search related networking. Maybe the lesson here is that a network with a narrow focus is more useful than a broad network with no particular focus.
I’ve tried Google + with the idea of circles. Maybe the idea of circles is what is needed to allow a large network to be separated into groups. But I wonder if that metaphor will be adopted by a enough people to take root. Maybe the solution for me is to un-friend people and reduce my Facebook network to a much smaller group of friends. Maybe the solution will be some kind of social network aggregator that will do some really smart filtering. I don’t think social networking is going away, but I think it will continue to evolve. I think it will look very different in a few years.